Roughly a fortnight ago, I bought a box of mangoes from Sainsbury’s. To my disappointment, the first two Mangoes I picked up from the box were neither ‘sweet’, nor ‘aromatic’, as the label on the box suggested. Feeling the disappointment, and a loss of £4, it took me seconds to pick my phone and I tweeted.

“@Sainsburys Mangoes – Neither sweet nor aromatic”

Within minutes, I had a response from @Sainsbury’s, and their customer service representative offered a full refund without any questions.

However, his politeness and responsiveness made me stop and think. Instantly, I felt bad, because Sainsbury’s cannot possibly check all the Mangoes in every box! Why did I then tweet about it? I could have picked my phone and instead of tweeting, I could have dialled their customer services or maybe written an email. The question hammering in my head was ‘why did I choose to tweet? Why did I go global with my complaint?’

It did not take me long to find answers to my question:

It is easy to ‘Tap, Type & Post’

Yes, with the ever-alive connectivity with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest – a tap, few types and post – Job Done. You don’t need to call anyone and probably wait in queue, find an email address to disclose your identity or take all the efforts to go to the merchant to return the goods. Social media has made ‘complaining’ easy (sic).

Belief that you will be heard only when you shout

In our subconscious mind, we all believe that unless many people hear about my complaint, the merchant will not feel the need to respond. So the louder you shout, the more people will hear and you will have a better chance to receive a response.

You aren’t unique, buyers now have more choices then their needs

Yes, buyers no longer wish to maintain relationships when service quality deteriorates. If you do not serve your customers well, someone else will. It is much easier to switch today than it has ever been.

High expectations: ‘right to be served – every penny counts

There is a greater awareness around this than ever before. The modern consumer cannot be taken for granted. Gone are the days when a sub-standard product and service could be sold without any implications of its consequence. Today’s consumers know their rights and consumer protection laws back them, if the problem is not resolved mutually and amicably.

Last but not least, often human tendency to complain more than to appreciate

Yes, we are not fair to the world around us and this includes our loved ones, our families, our colleagues and even strangers. In our subconscious mind, we are at ease while complaining and find it difficult to utter positive words about something we like, and I am no different. Statistics show that percentage of complaints on social media are much higher than appreciations from happy customers.

This throws the following questions to every business serving its customers:

  1. How do we manage complex and myriad of channels of social media?
  2. How can one be on top of things when it comes to understanding and measuring customer sentiments?
  3. How to deploy systems and processes that will help you listen to your customers and address their concerns swiftly?
  4. How to personalise your interactions with your customers in our ever-expanding digital world?
  5. How to deal with the wide-spread consequence when a customer complaints?

If social media can boost profits, it can also bring down your credibility in minutes if not seconds.

Your brand is all about the promises you make and promises you keep. Positive customer experience is key to the success of any modern business and businesses need to adopt a multi-pronged approach to address this.

Following are my top five recommendations to businesses, which are planning to or deploying systems in order to engage better with their customers and general audience over all.

  • Invest in systems that connect with your customers via multiple channels starting with traditional or legacy help-desk to modern social media outlets. All businesses need to have an official presence in every dominant social channel such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Linked-In, Pinterest, Instagram etc. There are number of excellent services on offer to capture customer review comments and it is best to invest in the one that suits your business.
  • Deploy automation to traverse public social media conversations (I do not recommend invasion of personal privacy here) and use heuristics driven approach to understand and analyse your customers’ comments via social media and spot trends such as:
    • What they like, do not like
    • Understanding their buying patterns and buying behaviours
    • Understanding their expectations
    • Get direct and indirect feedback about you
    • Identify what can win them ‘back’ if such a need arises
  • Be open to change – What has worked great in the past may not work in future. Therefore, your response to your customers have to adapt to such ever-changing expectations. Some customers cannot be satisfied by simply refunding – they now expect you to change and often test you and give you a second chance before you are dumped forever.
  • Respond to criticism positively. Nothing annoys a customer more than when his concerns are not responded to with care and with relevant resolutions.

And last but not the least:

  • Respond timely and stay relevant – Every response to your customer must remain relevant and time-bound. Today’s consumers do not have time or patience, if your engagement with them is not value based, timely and relevant.

Remember, if you do not care – someone else will. It will be too late then.

(In my next blog, I will talk about five approaches every business needs to adopt to gain accurate understanding of customer sentiments via social media.)